In a small Ohio town in the summer of 1979, Joe (Joel Courtney) and his group of friends are making a zombie movie on Super 8 film for entry into a Film Festival. Charles (Riley Griffiths) directing the film, thinks he’s lucked out when he manages to get local girl Alice (Elle Fanning) to agree to a role and drive them a remote train station for a key shot. An unscheduled train hurtles past them and crashes into an oncoming truck. The kids barely escape, along with something from one of the carriages; the broken camera captures it all on film…
JJ Abrams latest movie, Super 8, finally arrives along with high expectations after another incredibly well managed advertising campaign. A clever ‘teaser’ campaign similar to those for ‘Cloverfield’, ‘Star Trek’ and ‘Lost’. Abrams has built a solid reputation over the last few years based on his work with the aforementioned movies. Here he’s produced a modern day 80’s style movie with elements of ‘The Goonies’, ‘E.T.’, ‘Close Encounters’ and ‘Stand by Me’. The script uses all those movies as touchstones and tips its hat to many more. Not exactly original but done with real affection and understanding as to what made those films so appealing at the time.
The real strength of the movie lies within the performances of the young cast and they are all excellent. Joel Courtney as lead Joe, Riley Griffiths as wannabe director Charles, Ryan Lee as Cary the ‘demolition’ expert and especially Elle Fanning as Alice are all fantastic. The relationships, dialogue and emotions between the kids really resonate. They play out very naturally and particularly Elle Fanning is surely destined for a long and very interesting career.
Good fun if you can ignore all the plot holes, loose threads and scenes that just don’t make any sense… why the accidentally shot footage of whatever escaped from the train wreckage is never followed up is odd considering the title and ad campaign is based around that ‘Super 8’ is inexplicable. Not deal breakers, these are minor quibbles although my 13 year old nephew picked them all up and more throughout the screening; Super 8 remains an incredibly fun retro-movie.
They really don’t make movies like this anymore, but in saying that, we’ve seen it all before. Abrams has been called the ‘new’ Spielberg, he’s not, on this evidence he’s not even the ‘new’ Robert Zemeckis ‘Back to the Future’ era yet. Watch the final credits to see Charles’ completed zombie movie ‘The Case’, it’s definitely worth hanging around for.
Quality: 4 out of 5 stars
Any good: 4 out of 5 stars
Check out this excellent JJ Abrams interview in this months Vanity Fair magazine